Homefront’s competitive multiplayer, on the other hand, seems primed to be just another also-ran right from the get-go. With only two core game modes (Team Deathmatch and Capture and Hold) playable in two variations, the options are few. The loadout screen will be instantly familiar to anyone who has played a Call of Duty game in the past few years, and the online conflicts play out between the KPA and the US Army (rather than the ragtag freedom fighters from the campaign), so the intriguing setting is little more than window dressing. Though its inspirations are obvious, Homefront does a good job of appropriating tried-and-true mechanics. Earning experience, leveling up, increasing your arsenal, and unlocking new infantry abilities (read: perks) is satisfying, and the maps allow a decent range of viable battlefield strategies.
Things start get more lively as soon as battle points come into play. Earned in the same way as experience, these points are currency meant to be spent during your current match. Each loadout has two slots for purchasable abilities that can give you and your team an edge in combat. Some benefit only you, like the flak jacket and personal radar sweep. Others are meant to score some quick kills, like the Hellfire missile and white phosphorous strikes. And then, there are the drones. Once you’ve found an out-of-the-way place where you won’t be as vulnerable, you can summon a variety of remote-controlled assets onto the battlefield. One relatively inexpensive airborne drone has no attack capabilities, but it can highlight your enemies with big red diamonds that all your teammates can see. Other flying drones come with explosive ordnance, while still other drones scoot around on tank treads armed with various weapons. Drones can be destroyed and will eventually run out of batteries, but their presence on the battlefield is welcome. Not only do they give you something cool and different to do, but they are also powerful enough to affect the flow of the fight.
And if small vehicles aren’t your thing, you can save up your battle points to spawn in an actual vehicle, like a Humvee, tank, or helicopter. Spawning allies can choose to appear in your vehicle, so you don’t have to drive around looking for someone to hop in and make your ride more effective and deadly. Though they, too, are a borrowed idea, battle points invigorate combat by not only expanding your martial capabilities, but also by rewarding you for skillful play in the middle of a match. Furthermore, if you play the Battle Commander variants of the standard modes, your skills can earn you instant battlefield notoriety. As you rack up kills within a given life, you are assigned a star ranking and highlighted on your enemies’ radar. Though you are now a marked target, you gain some automatic perks commensurate with your star ranking that can make you faster, deadlier, and more battlefield aware.
Don’t let his ancestry fool you: Hopper is all American.
The diverse mechanics that combine to make Homefront’s multiplayer what it is may be familiar to genre veterans, but they are well integrated and achieve a nice balance. Matches in Homefront don’t feel quite like matches in other games, and there’s enough depth here to fuel plenty of hours of combat. Yet, the best part of Homefront is the thoughtful and thorough vision of the future laid out by the campaign. It’s rare to have a shooter pay this much attention to its setting, and the results are some remarkably memorable moments that are often nicely emphasized by the soundtrack. It squanders a lot of potential for greatness, but Homefront’s campaign still fuels much of the game’s appeal, helping to distinguish it among a crowded field of competitors.